Tag Archives: Maria Bello

‘Prime Suspect’ Costar Has Secret Other Life as Arm Wrestling Champ

Kenny Johnson

Handsome Kenny Johnson — Maria Bello’s onscreen boyfriend in “Prime Suspect” — admits he’s found challenges in the character that didn’t exist for him in his former detective roles on “The Shield” and “Saving Grace,” or his motorcycle gang member character on “Sons of Anarchy.”  “A personal relationship feels more real and naked and exposed and difficult than playing a corrupt cop,” he says.  “Just living with a person and all its complexities and subtleties, to me, feels challenging.”

Johnson, who was brought onto “Prime Suspect” at the 11th hour in a change of actors, clicked with Bello right away, which is a good thing, since they didn’t have much time for hanging out and getting to know each other.  “She’s got so much on her plate — every scene of every show, practically.  And she has her Haiti charity, along with work.  And she has her 10-year-old son.  I make it as easy as I can for her.  I do my homework,” he points out.

Of course, the prime challenge for “Prime Suspect” right now is staying alive.  In October, the network ordered six additional scripts of the police drama, but ratings have been weak and so far, there’s no green light for those episodes to be shot.  

MEANWHILE:  Johnson doesn’t keep up those guns of his without a certain amount of effort — and we’re not talking about firearms here, but his own arms.  “I box every day,” he tells us.  And there’s more. 

“I arm-wrestled for a bunch of years.  I was second in the world in my weight class,” reports the actor.  “This year, I’m  trying to get to the amateur world championships.”  He calls the “crazy little sport” his “secret life.  I do it as a hobby.  People think arm wrestling is so stupid.”  And yet, proponents say there’s more to arm wrestling than commonly assumed — strategy, not just brute strength — and they’d like to see more coverage of it, as well as its inclusion in the Olympics. 

Johnson’s friend and mentor in the sport is famous champ Neil Bell of Perth, Australia — a.k.a. the late Heath Ledger’s uncle.  “He befriended me in my first competition over a battle.  Such an old-school, Neanderthal kind of thing to do.”  Gotta love it.

Fall TV Trends Emerge at TCA Press Tour

As the annual summer TV Critics Association press tour rolls on this week, some interesting themes are emerging.  For instance, both NBC and ABC have dramas coming up involving dark fairy tales — ABC’s “Once Upon a Time,” and NBC’s “Grimm.” 

The latter boasts producers including David Greenwalt (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and Sean Hayes (as in Jack from “Will & Grace,” who also produces “Hot in Cleveland”).  It’s a crime procedural crossed with grim takes on some of those scary folklore tales penned by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm back in the early 1800s.  How about a big bad wolf who looks human, and does human things like Pilates classes, who is fattening up a child he abducted in order to eat her up?  Go ahead and take a moment to digest that one.

 Anyway, what accounts for this wave of disturbing fantasy on the small screen?  Greenwalt told press, maybe it’s that people are attracted to “dark themes in a dark time.”

Well, maybe.  They’re attracted to other times as well, evidently, as several series this year are either set in bygone days, or they’re revamps of shows from bygone days:  NBC’s “Playboy Club,” ABC’s “Pan Am” and “Charlie’s Angels” and NBC’s “Prime Suspect” to name four.    

Maria Bello NBC photo Patrick Harbron

The new “Prime Suspect,” as you may have heard, has the prodigiously  talented Maria Bello as Jane Timoney, picking up the hard-charging ways of police detective Jane Tennison, formerly played on British telly by the great Helen Mirren.  Things have changed a lot since Mirren began playing the role in 1991.  So today’s Jane — in New York City — will still deal with sexism, but it will be different.  “Sexism isn’t gone.  It’s more subtle and insidious in the modern world,” noted creator-exec producer Alexandra Cunningham.  She also noted that, visiting New York detective squads, she found many are male-only.  Jane will still smoke and drink, too.  But rather than the extreme chain smoking of Mirren’s incarnation, Bello’s will be constantly trying to quit.  (Bello, a smoker herself, said she can empathize.)  As for the drinking, Cunningham pointed out that it’s no longer ground-breaking to show a woman alcoholic on TV like it was 20 years ago when Mirren did it.  So this Jane will drink, but it won’t become the storyline-driving issue it became in the old “Prime Suspect.”